PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island ranks 32nd in the nation, and the worst in New England, when it comes to meeting the long-term care needs of older residents and people with disabilities, according to a scorecard released this week by the national nonprofit AARP.
The good news: Rhode Island showed improvement in all but one category.
“The vast majority of older Rhode Islanders want to live independently, at home, as they age — most with the help of unpaid family caregivers,” Kathleen Connell, state director of AARP Rhode Island, said in a statement released Wednesday. “Even facing tight budgets, Rhode Island is making progress to help our older residents achieve that goal. However, this scorecard shows we have more to do, and we need to pick up the pace.”
Rhode Island ranks 22nd nationally “support for family caregivers” and 24th in “quality of life and quality of care.” The state ranks 35th in “effective transitions,″ or how effectively the state transitions residents between nursing homes, hospitals and homes — the only category that showed a decline.
The report — “Picking Up the Pace of Change: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers” — is the third in a series that ranks states overall and on 25 separate indicators in five key areas: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; and effective transitions between nursing homes, hospitals and homes.
Unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Rhode Islanders, in part because the cost of long-term care remains unaffordable for most middle-income families, according to AARP Rhode Island. More than 134,000 Rhode Islanders help care for their aging parents, spouses and other loved ones so they can stay at home. AARP estimates the value of this unpaid care at about $1.78 billion.
“Many [family caregivers] juggle full-time jobs with their caregiving duties,″ Connell said, while “others provide 24/7 care for their loved ones.” Family caregivers “save the state money,″ she said, “by keeping their loved ones out of costly nursing homes – most often paid for Medicaid.″
Rhode Island improved its rank from 50th to 44th in the percentage of Medicaid long-term care dollars for older adults and people with physical disabilities that support care at home and in the community.
The report comes at a time when proposals in Washington are being considered to drastically cut federal Medicaid funding, which Connell said “would threaten these advancements, likely resulting in our most vulnerable citizens losing the lifesaving supports that they count on.″
The AARP Rhode Island has more than 138,000 members age 50 and older in the state.
New England Scorecard Rankings (best to worst):
New Hampshire: 16
Rhode Island: 32
Affordability and Access: 34
Choice of Setting and Provider: 30
Quality of Life & Quality of Care: 24
Effective Transitions: 35
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